Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Russian Nationalists Don’t Like Civic Nation Idea Any Better than Non-Russians

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 3 – Non-Russians generally oppose Vladimir Putin’s proposal to create a civic Russian identity, viewing it as a threat to their own nations because they suggest it is a hybrid way of pushing for their assimilation into an ethnic Russian one given the numerical dominance of the ethnic Russians.

            But many Russian nationalists oppose the idea as well, arguing that the latest Kremlin idea is intended to deracinate their nation in much the same way that CPSU efforts to create a supra-ethnic “Soviet people” did and thus deprive them of the opportunity to push for the establishment of a Russian nation state and of a true “Russian world.”

            Russian objections to a non-ethnic civic Russian identity may constitute an even bigger problem for Putin than non-Russian ones not only because they are more difficult for the regime to counter but also because they raise the possibility that there could be a linkup or at least a synergy between Russian and non-Russian nationalists.

            And nervousness among officials about such possibilities may help to explain why even as the Putin regime promotes its own kind of civic Russian nationalism and a Russian world, the authorities have repressed Russian nationalist groups at least as harshly as they have non-Russian ones – and in some cases even more.

            However that may be, the Russian nationalist positions on this issue deserve more attention than they normally receive, and Ramazan Alpaut of Radio Svoboda’s IdelReal portal helps fill the gap by interviewing some Russia nationalists about their objections to any non-ethnic one (

            It is a measure of official pressure against Russian nationalists on this point that one of his interview subjects spoke only on condition of anonymity.  That nationalist pointed out that “Russian nationalists support the idea of an ethnic Russian political nation,” one that includes ethnic Russians abroad who may not be citizens of the Russian Federation.

            The difference between a civic Russian nation and a Russian political nation is above all the way it is defined and formed, he says.  A Russian political nation, he says, presupposes “unity on the basis of language, culture and a common history” and also Russian Orthodoxy as the religion of its members.

            Another Russian ethnic nationalist, Vladimir Basmanov, who heads the Movement Against Illegal Immigration that Moscoow has declared extremist, argues that the ethnic Russian people is being sacrificed by the authorities in the attempt of the later to create a non-ethnic Russian nation.

            “Considering the low birthrate among Russians and the tempos of the so-called replacement by migration, if Russians have their national identity taken from them and replaced by one that is inseparable from all the other peoples of the Russian Federation … then in one or two generations, there won’t be any ethnic Russians left.”
            Basmanov says that Russian nationalists are “supporters of a primordial and not constructivist understanding of the nation. For us, the nation is a biological-cultural community which exists through history, an ethnos, if you like.” What the authorities call a civic nation, he says, Russian nationalists understand as “a civil society.”

            “It is a good thing when these terms are divided and bad when they are mixed together,” he continues.  “I want that ethnic Russians, Tatars, Komi, and Sami remain themselves and preserve their own uniqueness and identity. A policy directed at eliminating the ethnoses seems to me criminal … We do not need a Russia without Russians.”

            At the same time, “Tatars do not need a Russia without Tatars.” If a civic identity is supported in attention to ethno-national ones, that will be just fine. But “if it tries to subordinate them to itself, this will be bad for all people living in the state, for whom their roots and special features are valued.”

            Unfortunately, Basmanov says, just as was the case in Soviet times, the Russian authorities are pursuing the latter rather than the former.

            He says he favors arrangements like those which existed in the Russian Empire before 1917. Its successors, the USSR and the Russian Federation, he argues, are not states of “an imperial type” but rather “colonialist” because they sought to subordinate everything first to the world revolution and “now simply for personal enrichment” of the elites.

            Another Russian activist, Aleksey Klimin, who supports the Russian imperial movement, says that the current regime is discriminating against both ethnic Russians and non-Russians by refusing to allow them to form political parties on the basis of ethnic communities and subordinating everything to itself.

            “The authorities are creating another chimera,” he says, “the non-ethnic Russian nation thus displacing health nationalism which presupposes respect for traditions with ordinary Nazism. The coal is to frighten, to call black white and white black, and to set one nation against another.”

            This reflects the Kremlin’s longstanding policy, he says, of “divide and rule.”

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